Friday, February 11, 2011

Tournament of Champions Series Preview 1

(3) The Sandlot vs. (6) Chico's Bail Bonds Bears

The buzz for this series centers around the classic Benny Rodriquez-Kelly Leak match up and which superstar, by series end, will make the claim as the Josh Gibson of their time. Rodriquez, who had a long career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finished with a 1.000% stolen base percentage in 11 major league seasons, will be hard to pitch around with the emergence of Ham Porter as a bonafide power threat in the No. 5 hole. After that, the Sandlot lineup gets a little thin as No. 6 hitter Ya Ya Mclendon is still recovering from his brush with the beast and rookie No. 7 hitter Scotty Smalls has a .210/.308/.375 slash line since the start of 2011.

In the other dugout, the Bears' Leak has established himself as not only a power threat at the plate, but the center fielder has taken to handling all fly balls in the outfield. Its caused some tension in the clubhouse, most notably by right fielder Ahmad Abdul Rahim.

"I know he's a future hall-of-famer and he's our clean up hitter, but damn! Can a brother get a fly ball?!" said Rahim.

Despite the outfield situation, Rahim has been excellent in the lead off spot since learning how to drag bunt-.440 OBP since January 15-and the middle of the Bears' order (Leak and catcher Mike Engelberg) are the toughest 1-2 punch in the North Valley League.

Trying to shut down the Bears' lineup will be former minor leaguer Kenny Denunez. Despite his age-Denunez turns 42 on April 6-the right-hander is still imposing and has developed a new pitch similar to his "heater" called "the heater's sister, 'Heather'". If Denunez can keep the pesky top of the Bears' order-namely lead off hitter Tanner Boyle (.390 OBP) and No. 2 hitter Toby Whitewood-off the bases, Leak and Co. may not have many chances to drive in runs.

The Sandlot lineup, which showed its potential in last week's lopsided win over neighborhood rival Tigers, will have to deal with righty Amanda Whurlitzer. The 5-2 former map salesman is in the prime of her career and until the Vaseline ball is outlawed, should be a Buttermaker candidate each year.

While the Sandlot has already played a true road game in the win over the Tigers, the Bears have never ventured away from North Valley Field and will be tested right away with games one and two at the Sandlot.

* All statistics provided by Ogilvie

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